More good news for local sports radio fans.
Clear Channel Radio in Hartford has announced its two sports stations will provide separate programming, ending the simulcast that began in January when 97.9 ESPN went on the air.
The FM station, with new call letters WUCS, has been broadcasting ESPN sports – the same format heard for years on AM 1410 WPOP, which has a smaller signal, especially after sunset.
Beginning March 5th, WPOP will carry Fox Sports Radio, a Clear Channel subsidiary with more than 400 affiliates across the country and main studios on the west coast.
WPOP will continue to air a local show, “The Drive” with Paul Nanos, also heard on New Haven ESPN affiliate WAVZ (1300 AM), says Clear Channel Hartford operations manager Mike Wheeler.
Meanwhile, WUCS 97.9 has added its own local afternoon talk show, hosted by veteran radio personality Mike Bower.
“Bower has a deep passion for sports and his varied experiences with talk radio, music radio and standup comedy make him an ideal on-air host,” Wheeler said. “The Bower Show” airs weekdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Still unanswered is whether there is significance to 97.9’s newly acquired call letters.
There is speculation that WUCS could ultimately stand for “UConn Sports,” but neither Wheeler nor Clear Channel will comment on the suggestion. Currently, CBS-owned WTIC-AM holds the lucrative rights to University of Connecticut basketball and football broadcasts.
The addition of ESPN 97.9 brought Hartford its first FM talk-based station, but talk and information on FM should be no surprise, according to Richard Hanley, a media professor at Quinnipiac University.
“Talk radio particularly for local sports defies the Internet trend because of its intensely local nature,” he told modenook.com.
“The Internet works best for content that can be distributed anywhere around the world. It’s important to point out that even at the network level, sports is the one area of programming that retains its pre-Internet audience, so it is natural for radio to do the same.”